Deion Sanders-led Colorado is driving a lot of college football betting

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Colorado head coach Deion Sanders responds to questions during a news conference after the team's NCAA college football practice at the university Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

LAS VEGAS – The excitement of Deion Sanders taking over at Colorado is making the Buffaloes an unlikely favorite of bettors for this college football season.

At least with what is considered the betting public. For the pros, not so much.

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Colorado has a win total of 3 1/2 at FanDuel Sportsbook and other books for its final Pac-12 Conference season. The professional gamblers are the reason why that number isn't higher, and they're the ones who carry the most influence when determining lines.

“We're seeing a lot of over action from the public,” said Chuck Esposito, Red Rock race and sportsbook director in Las Vegas.

Sanders overhauled the vast majority of that roster, bringing in 86 new players — 56 since Colorado's spring game — to revive a once-proud program that went 1-11 last season. This isn't the first rebuild for the charismatic Sanders, who calls himself Coach Prime after a Hall of Fame playing career in which he dubbed himself Prime Time.

He also led Jackson State to back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, a program that went 4-8 as recently as 2019.

“It’s quite a phenomenon, the amount of Buffalo bets coming through," said Joey Feazel, who oversees college football betting for Caesars Digital. “Coach Prime is one of the most entertaining coaches, and it’s interesting to see it. I’m really anxious to see how they start out the year with TCU (on Sept. 2). I think they might surprise a lot of people.”

Beyond Colorado, Esposito and Feazel said sixth-ranked USC was another team outside the top four driving a lot of the action. Even those who bet for a living are on the Trojans.

That's a change from last season when Feazel said the Trojans weren't taken seriously by the pros. But now coach Lincoln Riley is in his second season, and reigning Heisman Trophy candidate Caleb Williams is back at quarterback after nearly making the College Football Playoff before pulling his hamstring in the Pac-12 Championship.

FanDuel lists USC at 16-1 odds to win the national title, but the Trojans are getting more love at Caesars. Their odds improved from 12-1 to 10-1 over the last two weeks.

“They made some changes on defense,” Feazel said. “They're certainly going to improve from what their defense was last year. It's something Lincoln Riley usually struggles in is having a good enough defense to be competitive in really big games.”

Also beyond the top four teams — Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama in that order — No. 5 LSU, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Florida State and No. 9 Clemson are getting the most action at Caesars and Red Rock.

No. 15 Oregon has been the surprise in regards to a high betting handle at Red Rock.

“Outside of playing at Texas Tech (on Sept. 9), I don't see a whole lot of tough games outside of conference games,” Esposito said. “So if they win against Texas Tech and kind of own their conference, I think they would at least be in the (CFP) discussion.”

As the country's top-ranked team and two-time defending national champion, Georgia is getting plenty of action, but the Bulldogs are not much of a value bet. They are 11-5 at FanDuel to win their third title in a row.

Feazel pointed out Georgia is a substantial favorite in all 12 games. The closest Bulldogs line at Caesars is the 7 1/2 points at Tennessee on Nov. 18 and then a 16-point line at Auburn on Sept. 30.

“There's going to be one of those games where it's going to be a coin flip,” Feazel said. “It's every year in college, and that's what makes college football so great is you get those big spreads and those big upsets that everybody has their eyes on.”


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